Facebook Changes Controversial “Real Name” Policy After Protests

facebook_censorFacebook announced this week that it will make changes to its controversial “real names” policy after receiving an open letter from activist groups criticizing the site for the rule.

The policy, which requires users to “use the name on Facebook that their friends and family know them by,” has come under increasingly harsh scrutiny over the past year from minority populations ranging from the LGBT community to Native Americans. The rule is intended to prevent people from being able to operate anonymously on the site, thus (hypothetically) ensuring some accountability among users. However, it can also have the opposite effect, including censoring the birth names of Native Americans or forcing members of the trans community to go by their real names when they may want to use a pseudonym.

“We are deeply invested in making this better. I’ve seen first-hand how people — including LGBT people — can be bullied online by people using fake or impersonating accounts,” Facebook VP of Growth Alex Schultz wrote in his own open letter. “We also understand the challenges for many transgender people when it comes to formally changing one’s name. That’s why we’re making changes now and in the future, and will continue to engage with you and all who are committed to looking after the most vulnerable people using our product.”

Some of the planned changes include a feature that will allow users to explain their circumstances to the site, and a new security measure that will require individuals who flag profiles to provide an explanation for why they did so.